The Dodgers needed a spark plug. They were so desperate for a leadoff hitter they planned on using Yasiel Puig. Their No. 1 plan for a second baseman was a Cuban shortstop who had never played a lick of American baseball.
And then they discovered an old phenom.
Where would the Dodgers be right now if Dee Gordon had not unexpectedly emerged as the answer to several problems?
Gordon, 26, has pretty much become the ideal leadoff hitter. Friday night against the Mets, he had three hits, including his major-league leading 11th triple. He also leads everyone with 57 steals. He’s scored 70 runs and is hitting .289.
After failing as a shortstop, after bouncing back and forth to the minors, after runs as an outfielder and utility player, Gordon has very much made himself at home at second base.
“Dee has not panicked this year,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “That’s the main thing.”
Gordon, a left-handed hitter, is unexpectedly hitting left-handers particularly well. He’s hitting .311 against them this season, after hitting .221 in his first three seasons.
“I always liked to hit lefties,” Gordon said. “That’s why I didn’t switch-hit. I was a switch-hitter at first. Then I told my dad (former major-league pitcher Tom Gordon) I don’t mind hitting against lefties left-handed, so that’s why I stopped.”
At 18 he gave up switch-hitting. He now utilizes his great speed, tries to avoid fly balls and is consistent with his swing. And if it doesn’t work one night, he stays on track.
“I think the back-and-forths have helped him,” Mattingly said. “It is a sign of maturity. So many guys change, then they’re lost. He has stabilized his approach this year.”
It’s the new Dee Gordon, answer to the Dodgers’ baseball prayers. A player who kept working hard and now is getting it all together.
“It’s just trusting my abilities,” Gordon said. “I had a hard time doing that early on. Trusting even when it doesn’t go well. I think that’s what I’m doing a much better job of, knowing what I can and can’t do, instead of trying to do everything.”